when joseph smith led his persecuted band of followers into western Illinois from Missouri in 1839, nothing overtly portended that within a few short years he and his brother would be assassinated by a mob and his oppressed followers would soon have to flee in the face of lawless violence against them. Instead, their new neighbors expressed sympathy with these new, hardworking White settlers. They saw them as refugees, seeking the same kind of equal opportunity and independence held dear by the western settlers in Jacksonian America. How, then, did tensions between the Latter-day Saints and the other settlers in Hancock County, Illinois grow so deep? And why did those tensions explode into lawless violence that ultimately led Governor Thomas Ford to call out the militia multiple times?

James Simeone’s The Saints and the State offers compelling answers to both these questions. To the first, Simeone argues that Smith and...

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